HomeArtificial IntelligenceImec.xpand raises $320 million for a fund to speculate in semiconductors and...

Imec.xpand raises $320 million for a fund to speculate in semiconductors and nanotechnology

Imec.xpanda enterprise capital fund specializing in chips and nanotechnology, today announced the launch of a brand new $320 million fund.

The specialized technology fund, based in Leuven, Belgium, will deal with innovations in semiconductors and nanotechnology.

Established in collaboration with Imec, the R&D and innovation center for nanoelectronics, the fund will spend money on start-ups which have the potential to be global disruptors of their goal areas.

The fund goals to advance semiconductor innovation beyond traditional applications and advance next-generation technologies which can be 10 years ahead of their time, said Tom Vanhoutte, partner at Imec.xpand, in an interview with VentureBeat.

“We are an independent fund that only invests in opportunities where we will make a big contribution to the success of the corporate. We spend money on startup firms around the globe,” Vanhoutte said. “We hope to take these firms to the subsequent level and remain on board as a big shareholder in all capital rounds.”

Imec.xpand invests worldwide across all startup levels with the aim of converting semiconductor and nanotechnology innovations into market-ready solutions. The fund consists of a few dozen people, lots of whom have technical backgrounds. However, if obligatory, they’ll use Imec's research knowledge.

The fund focuses on leveraging Imec's expertise and targets breakthrough technologies corresponding to artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) and photonics. In the life sciences space, Imec.xpand seeks opportunities to advance cell therapy, sequencing, neuromodulation and other applications that may revolutionize medical diagnostics and treatment.

Tom Vanhoutte (left) and Peter Vanbekbergen from Imec.xpand.

As for categories, Vanhoutte said there’s lots of interest in AI, biotech semiconductors, quantum computing and more. For example, performing computational work on DNA or protein sequencing often requires innovation in semiconductors. The funding amounts range from 15 million US dollars and upwards.

“We don’t shrink back from technology risk, which some VCs do because they don’t have the identical technical background as us,” Vanhoutte said.

“Imec.xpand is just not nearly funding startups, it is usually about constructing firms that may lead the subsequent wave of technological change,” said Vanhoutte. “With this fund we would like to advance the semiconductor industry by supporting start-ups to bring progressive technologies to market more quickly. The combination of our enterprise capital and international network helps unicorns grow in the worldwide race for semiconductor supremacy.”

The first Imec.xpand fund was launched in 2017 with the strong support of Imec. Since then, Imec.xpand has attracted a loyal base of international financial and strategic investors. Over the years, Imec.xpand has built a robust track record of investing in disruptive firms.

The fund's positioning in the worldwide enterprise capital community and likewise within the USA is instrumental in attracting potential co-investors for its portfolio firms. Imec.xpand's cachet often acts as a financial catalyst, allowing startups to lift additional funding from other investors. To date, imec.xpand has invested in 23 firms which have raised nearly $1.6 billion in funding thus far, including two unicorns.

Imec.xpand's portfolio firms develop differentiated technologies that give them a world competitive advantage of their respective markets. Imec.xpand's notable portfolio firms include Celestial AI, a Palo Alto, California-based company that recently raised $175 million to advance its optical compute and storage fabric solution for AI infrastructure; PsiQuantum, a frontrunner within the race
to develop the primary practical quantum computer; and Swave Photonics are developing a novel holographic prolonged reality chip technology designed to revolutionize 3D holographic imaging and spatial computing.

“We search for globally disruptive firms,” he said.

Imec.xpand's combination of independent management, global reach and scale, dedicated semiconductor focus, corporate and financially motivated investors and extensive Imec support lays the inspiration
Fund that’s different from other enterprise capital initiatives.

The only region where Imec.xpand doesn’t invest is China, given geopolitical tensions and US calls to ban such investments. Otherwise, any investment on the planet that involves a chip can be considered.

“We search for firms where collaboration is critical in developing their technology roadmap,” Vanhoutte said. “Sometimes it’s very complicated. Sometimes it’s a really specific a part of the answer they’re constructing that requires specific expertise that they could not have in-house, or more ambitious roadmaps.”

The fund uses technical expertise for due diligence and helps start-ups start.

“That allows us to take quite a bit more technology risk than anyone else,” Vanhoutte said.

The company has invested in holographic technology and lots of other areas that involve deep technology research. While the US is usually a pacesetter in technology, Vanhoutte said there are also many strong technical minds in Europe and so the main focus stays global. The government's role in funding is usually larger in Europe and smaller within the U.S., he noted.

“I don’t think we’ve checked out a single company within the United States recently that really has significant government money,” he said.


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